Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Cordelia Kingsbridge - Kill Game

Homicide detective Levi Abrams is barely holding his life together. He’s reeling from the fallout of a fatal shooting, and his relationship with his boyfriend is crumbling. The last thing he’s prepared for is a serial killer stalking the streets of Las Vegas. Or how he keeps getting thrown into the path of annoyingly charming bounty hunter Dominic Russo.
Dominic likes his life free of complications. That means no tangling with cops—especially prickly, uptight detectives. But when he stumbles across one of the Seven of Spades’s horrifying crime scenes, he can’t let go, despite Levi’s warnings to stay away.
The Seven of Spades is ruthless and always two moves ahead. Worst of all, they’ve taken a dangerously personal interest in Levi and Dominic. Forced to trust each other, the two men race to discover the killer’s identity, revealing hidden truths along the way and sparking a bond neither man expected. But that may not be enough to protect them.
This killer likes to play games, and the deck is not stacked in Levi and Dominic’s favor.

Comment: I saw some readers, whose opinion on books I share, praising this author's work, namely regarding this Seven of Spades series. I added this first book to my TBR and finally got to it.

In this story we follow detective Levi Abrams and his partner Martine Valcourt as they investigate what seems to be the beginning of a serial killer spree. The killer leaves a card with the seven of spades as a signature and even taunts the police when they are too slow in getting the clues right. The intriguing part is that soon becomes obvious the killer is targeting people who seem guilty of some crime which the justice system didn't convict, making him or her a sort of vigilante. 

At the same time, Levi is dealing with a rocky love life, for his boyfriend of three years is showing signs he doesn't care about Levi's profession and keeps leaving hints about him doing something safer. It doesn't help bounty hunter/waiter Dominic keeps showing up at the police station when he catches people and he does like what he sees. Since it feels like Dominic thinks the same, they have managed to stay away from one another, being simply polite if necessary, but what will happen when Levi feels forced to make a decision at last?

I think this was a good blend of crime story and romance. The story feels well planned by the author even though for my personal taste, some elements were made to happen rather quickly but I can assume in the following books we might have more development on all subjects and those might feel more complete too. 

The characters are likable and flawed, which means we can bet there will be development for them and as they interact, certainly the relationships or connections with other characters will come to life even better. It's also a lot easier to sympathize when they act or think things which we could do the same way were we to be in a similar position. I think a few scenes were staged too obviously, however. In the sense that it felt like the author wanted to included this or that and she did, even though some of those scenes could have happened in a more natural manner.

Levi is a fascinating character. He is both assertive and vulnerable and although he does make a decision I don't think was a good one, romantically wise, I liked him as a protagonist. His values and moral code are exemplary in his professional life and although I would have liked a different tone for the romantic relationship, I think he is very likable. His flaws make him seem more human and I can see how he might become a better, happier person as the story moves along, if he continues in this way.

Dominic is even more intriguing because his flaws feel organic. He had a gambling problem, he is still recovering but he is a genuinely good person and I feel like I can cheer him up and want to see him find true happiness, at all levels. His romantic life before Levi was rather sad, for he had quick encounters with men he didn't feel he would care about so I hope the romance between him and Levi will become something very solid and strong to face any issues. 

I should say that the way things were played out in this book still feel a bit too quick and staged. Meaning, the writing style made it feel like they had to be placed in close settings on purpose and not because the plot truly required it. For instance, the moment they go from two people who saw the other one as being attractive to really acknowledge there was a mutual attraction happened because Levi does something that, after how he was presented, feels like something he would not do. But to advance this situation, the author placed him in such a scenario. It felt staged and I would have personally preferred another scene for this to happen.

The secondary characters didn't feel very strong to me, again there to play a role. I hope the next book can offer something more solid in this regard.
As for the plot, I think it was intriguing, the villain has his/hers own set of values even if the interpretation is clearly wrong, but it's not a classic bad guy who just wants to kill or has a specific reason. The end was quite well done because it felt the path taken had to be the only possible one to finish this case but we learn things weren't as easy as that...

I liked this book and will read the next one but I hope the things I found less appealing - despite my general appreciation - can be smoothed or "fixed" then.
Grade: 7/10

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